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Paul Westerberg & The Painkillers (Fri, Sat. Sun, November 5th, 6th and 7th, 2004, Pantages Theater, Minneapolis)

by Karla Ludzack

It’s not as acoustically sound as The Guthrie (where Westerberg played several solo shows that same year), but The Pantages Theatre which re-opened in 2002 after a complete renovation, did provide a great backdrop for Paul Westerberg's first show with a full band since 1996.

When I arrived at the venue Friday night, the scalpers were out in full force, which may explain why that show had sold out so quickly.

Shortly after 8:15 p.m. Westerberg, Jim Boquist (bass), Kevin Bowe (guitar), and Michael Bland (drums) took the stage, looking every inch the rock stars that they are. Westerberg was wearing a leather suit accented with orange paint, the jacket featuring leather gloves hanging from the cuffs much like the mittens we used to have clipped to our coats in grade school. The strutting of the sharply dressed Boquist was a real kick, and I especially enjoyed seeing Boquist and Bowe playing against each other. Ex-Prince drummer Michael Bland, sat at his kit grinning widely while sucking on a lollipop, never missing a beat.

The Painkillers were well-rehearsed and poised to make history. And for the next 100 minutes or so, that is exactly what they did. They opened with one of Westerberg's solo movie soundtrack hits, the appropriately titled “Waiting For Somebody.” The next song was “Final Hurrah,” from Westerberg's 1999 release Suicaine Gratifaction. The boys continued to rip through one great song after another, including The 'Mats “Kiss Me On The Bus,” and a very moving version of “My Dad,” from Westerberg’s latest release Folker. “AAA” was requested many times at The Guthrie solo shows in 2002, but never played. This time, Westerberg played it, even mixing in some lyrics from Folker's ”Anyway's All Right” to freshen it up a bit.

Overall, the show provided a wonderful sampling of PW tunes old and new, re-affirming that he’s actually written some of his best stuff in the basement over the last few years. A solo segment of the set featured some other favorite acoustic tunes.

Man Without Ties message board moderator Kathy had pointed out that there was another band called the Painkillers playing in Minneapolis on Friday night and Westerberg addressed this band name issue at the show, throwing some new ideas including The Assholes, Kevin Bowe Works Blue, and Paul Westerberg and His Only Friends.

The audience rushed the stage near the end of the full set, and despite attempts by Pantages ushers to get them back to their seats, they remained up front for the rest of the show.

An audience member seemed to prompt the band to play a cover of The Partridge Family's “I Think I Love You.” I can only imagine and envy the energy up front during that song. (We were in the balcony.) The band followed this with “Alex Chilton” and “Left of The Dial.” (The bars were had closed before the midway point of the show, and it was weird not to have a drink in hand for this song.) For the encore, Westerberg ripped into “MPLS” on blues harp, playing and singing the hell out of it. This was pretty hard to top, but ending the show with “Can't Hardly Wait came close.

Karla Ludzak is

{Karla attended all three Paul Westerberg shows. Read the complete version of this review and reviews of Saturday and Sunday's shows in her music Karla's Reviews.]

Related links:

Paul Westerberg and the Painkillers Set list - 11/5/2004 - Pantages

1. Waiting For Somebody
2. Final Hurrah
3. Kiss Me On The Bus
4. My Dad
5. AAA
6. Achin' To Be
7. Mr. Rabbit (Kevin Bowe on mandolin)
8. Making Me Go
9. Let The Bad Times Roll
10. As Far As I Know
11. Little Mascara
12. Valentine
13. High Time
14. new song (Paul-solo electric)
15. Sadly Beautiful (Paul-solo acoustic 12 string)
16. Crackle & Drag (Paul-solo acoustic 12 string)
17. If Only You Were Lonely (Paul-solo acoustic 12 string)
18. Lookin' Up In Heaven (Paul acoustic w/ band)
19. Love Untold (Paul on electric 12 string)
20. I Will Dare
21. I Think I Love You (Partridge Family cover)
22. Alex Chilton
23. Left Of The Dial
MPLS (Paul on blues harp)
I'll Be You
Folk Star/Jingle
Only A Hobo (Bob Dylan cover)
Can't Hardly Wait